As I started reading the Book of Mormon again this year I read about the journeys of Lehi and Nephi’s families through the wilderness. As a mother I paused as I read what Nephi wrote of the women of their company, “we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and, our women did bear children in the wilderness.” Nephi does not go into detail about their trials except to include that bearing their children in the wilderness was likely a trial the women had to bear. We know it caused some of the men to complain because of what their wives had to bear. Laman and Lemuel reminded Nephi,
“we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions” (1 Nephi 17:20).
I would think that these women did not envision that they would be beginning their families this way. They belonged to some of the more affluent families of Jerusalem and would have likely been in relative comfort for their pregnancy and birth with a midwife, friends, and more family to attend them.
And while they must have suffered greatly Nephi counts the blessings of what their wives have endured “our women did give plenty of suck for their children in the wilderness.” So while this time was difficult for them, they were blessed to nourish their little ones with abundance for their health. I imagine these women gathering around one another to teach and strengthen one another as they carried babies in their womb, birthed them, and nursed them. There must have been a wealth of faith among these strong women. I’m a little jealous of the closeness they must have developed. I imagine they prayed mightily for one another. In our day I feel that we are often so removed from one another’s experiences and hear of them only secondhand. Maybe that is why I feel so blessed when someone invites me to be a part of their pregnancy and birth experiences.
These Hebrew women had responded to the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth and had been blessed as a result. To me Nephi’s words tell me that he recognized how difficult this was for the women and how much he loved and respected them for fulfilling this commandment with faith. In verse 3 he proclaims,
“And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish and strengthen them and provide a means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them.”
Nephi is not the only one that did, “Go and do.” Nephi says that the women “were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmuring” (1 Nephi 17:2). He recognized the faith in the women of his company who placed themselves in God’s hands saying, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). In Nephi’s time birth could mean death for mother and/or baby much more commonly than in our day. The afflictions that these women experienced through giving life were preparatory. They worked to make them stronger and more faithful. The survival of the Book of Mormon could not have happened without the strong women who bravely brought life into the world. So I ask myself and you, have your experiences giving birth caused you to become stronger? More faithful? Have you allowed your birth experiences to render you less likely to bear your “journeyings” without murmuring? Have these experiences refined your soul?